Devs produce nine new NFC apps at Boston hackathon

Forty-three developers produced nine prototype NFC applications at Isobar’s 48-hour hackathon in Boston, including systems for ordering drinks in busy bars and an innovative car parking app. Paula Berger was there for NFC World…

Isobar's Create 48 NFC hackathon
CREATE 48: Devs raced the clock to develop new NFC apps in just 48 hours. Click to enlarge.

How difficult is it to create new NFC applications? Public relation and marketing agency Isobar decided to find out earlier this month by hosting ‘Create 48’, a 48-hour NFC hackathon for developers and designers.

According to Michael Nicholas, Isobar’s chief strategy officer and the host of the event, the organizers didn’t know how many hackers to expect. The event was promoted across the internet, through Twitter and by NFC World, and the organizers were happily surprised when 43 developers and designers showed up.

The hackers, split into 11 teams, had 48 hours to develop an NFC application that in some way improved interactions between brands and consumers. Some teams arrived together with ideas in mind and beer in hand, while other teams were formed on the spot by people who’d never met before. Sponsors provided Samsung Nexus S and Nokia handsets, NFC tags, readers, and demo code. Isobar provided the workspace, food and drink, experts to offer advice, and a place to sleep if needed.

Exactly 48 hours later, a panel of seven NFC experts from Nokia, Google, Tieto, and Isobar assembled to judge the results. The judges were impressed that all 11 teams had been able to develop an application concept, and nine had created functional prototypes. The applications were evaluated on the technical implementation, impact on a brand or business, consumer focus, level of innovation, market potential, and overall ‘coolness’.

First place went to OnTap, developed by a group using the name Beer Pants Meeting. The application makes it easy to order and pay in a crowded bar by tapping a mobile phone on NFC tags placed throughout the building. According to the judges, the feature that made it the winner is the social aspect of the application, allowing customers to share coupons and increase the discount value every time they share it.

I Got Your Ticket Right Here by Bazinga took second place, focusing on problems people have when parking in a city. The application locates nearby garages and shows how many spaces are available. Users tap their phone at the garage entrance to check in, then tap when they park to record their spot. The application remembers where the car is parked, sends a warning when the garage is closing, accepts NFC-based discounts or validated parking from local businesses, and handles payment and discounts automatically. Judging panelist Ville Sointu of Tieto noted that this was “a solution you really wanted on your phone immediately”.

Third place winner BarTap by Team Where also addressed the issue of ordering in a crowded bar, but from a restaurant owner’s perspective, even creating sample tools owners could use to create NFC tags to make this work. The judges believed this solution could be deployed with the current hardware and tags quite quickly and without significant costs.

One of the more technically sophisticated entries used NFC peer-to-peer communication to exchange vCard contact information between the Android-based Nexus S phone and Nokia’s Meego-based N9 handset.

Judging panelist Daniel Koulomzin of Google was impressed by the quality of the entries overall. “The teams accomplished a lot in the time they had, presenting working demos complete with supporting web applications. Many of the apps showed a lot of polish and exciting ideas.”

Next: Visit the NFCW Expo to find new suppliers and solutions

4 comments on this article

  1. Ordering and paying for a drink in the bar using NFC mobile will require a new fulfillment system. What if there is only one or two bartenders? So it appear a backend system will need to be created for the bar applications.

    However, it does increase parallelism for transactions and can probably inrease the profits of a bar dramatically by decentralizing the drink ordering process away from a counter or server.

    I’m not trying to be QR code devil advocate, but I do not see the difference between using NFC and QR code in this bar ordering model. In fact, QR codes have a slight advantage allowing more people to scan simulatenously versus waiting for the person to complete their scanning and still standing in front of the NFC tag.

    Sounds like a great productive event nonetheless. I wonder if anyone of them are looking for work..

  2. Oh, if we had more than 48 hours we would take this so much further, including polishing a back-end component. Alas, this is the nature of the hackathon.

    But on the point of using NFC instead of QR codes: One of the other features of the application was that you could share a discount deal with friends, and tap and pass it on. For each friend you tap the deal with, your discount on the next drink increases by 1%.

    Furthermore, we thought the NFC technology would be quite handy in a dark bar where it might be tricky to scan a QR code… either due to the poor lighting or lack of a steady hand.

    We’d be happy to answer more questions and hear your suggestions. Not every detail was covered in the article.

    – Annette, Team Beer Pants Meeting

    1. Congratulations on the win Annette. The incrementing discount idea is really neat, and a lot could be done with that.

      But I’m sure the question on everyone’s lips is “where did the team name come from?” 🙂

      1. Thanks! It was a lot of fun.

        Hahaha… You’ll hear the exclusive story right here. I suppose it sounds a lot like the Big Bang Theory. It was a collision of too many ideas under the pressure of a time limit.

        One of us suggested an app to help book rooms and do timesheets in busy office environment. Meeting!

        One of us suggested an app to help a consumer overcome the difficulty of finding the right clothing size (or pants size) when each brand’s measurements are each slightly different. Pants!

        One of us suggested the idea of an app that would be handy in a bar. It happened to be the one we adopted. At that moment, we rejoiced – with a box of Sam Adams. Beer!

        Beer! Pants! Meeting!

        Annette Arabasz (@annettish)
        Kyle Lampert (@kylelampert)
        Craig Andrews
        David Cohen

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